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Alberto L.

Is artificial light good for plants?

 Blog  •  Published on: 14 Mar 2023

Light is one of the most important factors for plant growth and development. It is thanks to the light that plants carry out photosynthesis, a vital process for their survival. However, today many people choose to grow plants indoors or indoors where natural light is limited or non-existent.

In these situations, artificial light is used to provide the plants with the necessary light energy. But is artificial light good for plants? In this article we will discuss the differences between natural and artificial light, what plants need from light, the different types of lights that can be used for plants, and whether artificial light is actually good for plants.

Why is light so important for plants?

Plants are wonderful beings, capable of making their own food; but for this they need to undergo a chemical reaction called photosynthesis, which allows them to transform carbon dioxide and water into sugars, which is the food that enhances the growth of the plant. Sunlight is the energy used to get this process going.

Plant leaves absorb a certain portion of the solar spectrum. This occurs in the leaves, thanks to the presence of chloroplasts, organs similar to pores, rich in chlorophyll, which, in addition to receiving solar radiation, absorb CO2 from the environment to initiate this chemical reaction.

Sunlight has two fundamental characteristics that can vary and have a different effect on plants, which are quality and quantity. The quality of light is related to the color and the quantity to the intensity. Will artificial light manage to cover these characteristics that sunlight has?

Differences between natural and artificial light

Daylight consists of electromagnetic energy generated from the source; it contains a healthy spectrum of colors and wave amplitudes appropriate for life on earth. Meanwhile, artificial light uses another source of energy to generate light that is not as versatile as natural light and in some cases can have a detrimental effect on plant and animal life when exposed for prolonged periods.

Moderate exposure to all aspects of natural light is ideal for most forms of life on earth; this does not always apply to artificial light, which generally serves the purpose of illuminating in the dark. Not all types of artificial light can be used to illuminate plants, let's see below what types of lights exist.

Different types of lights for plants

There are different types of lights, although not all of them are suitable to be applied to plants. Let's see each one of them:

  • Incandescent light: The incandescent bulb has been the traditional artificial light source and since it has very little efficiency in many countries of the world, its use is no longer allowed. Of all the energy it consumes, only about 15% is converted into visible (light) and the rest into heat and energy that is beyond the spectrum of human vision. It is not suitable for growing plants because it emits very little blue and red light, which are the wavelengths that plants need for photosynthesis.
  • Halogen lights: They represent an evolution with respect to the incandescent bulb, since they have greater efficiency (greater use of the energy consumed and longer useful life) and performance (capable of providing more light per watt consumed) in relation to the incandescent bulb. In any case, it is already beginning to be taken off the market in many countries due to its low efficiency compared to new technologies. Like incandescent bulbs, it is not suitable for use on plants.
  • Fluorescent Light: Fluorescent light is known for its extreme efficiency compared to incandescent and halogen lights. It has undergone several transformations since its massive arrival on the market in the second half of the 20th century, such as the reduction in the ignition time and the "flickering" that it generated when keeping it on, almost to the point of making them imperceptible. Unlike the previous ones, fluorescent lights have a light spectrum suitable for plants.
  • LED lights: Within the types of artificial light, there is light in emitting diodes that are the latest trend in lighting. They are the champions of all artificial light possibilities, providing vastly more light for the energy it consumes without producing heat, as well as having a much longer life than its second closest competitor in performance and efficiency, fluorescent lighting. It is the most recommended for use in the garden and plants, you will find hundreds of garden products that use led lights such as inground lights, solar outdoor lights, solar pathway lights, etc.

Is artificial light good for plants?

With everything seen so far in this post, I can quickly answer that yes, artificial light can be beneficial for plants, but this is as long as it is used properly. Artificial light can provide plants with the light energy needed to photosynthesize, but it's important to note that not all artificial lights are created equal.

With this answer you can start applying all the lights you want, you will see how some tree spotlights can greatly beautify the appearance of your garden at night. However, remember that it is important to select the right light source and ensure that it provides the required light intensity and spectrum for the plants in question.

Also, if what you want is to replace sunlight, you should keep in mind that artificial light is not a complete substitute for natural light. Plants still need natural light to carry out important biological processes, such as the synthesis of vitamin D and the regulation of the circadian cycle. Therefore, it is advisable to provide plants with a proper balance of natural and artificial light whenever possible.


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